Fundraising news, ideas and inspiration for professional charity fundraisers

No face to face fundraising here, thank you

No face to face fundraising here, thank you

That’s the message in the MS Trust’s comment in the fundraising news section of its website last month. On 28 August it published a short comment item entitled Is the MS Trust losing money to high street fundraisers?.

It raised the issue in response to BBC Newsnight’s ‘revelation’ that fundraising companies actually charge charities money to carry out professional fundraising services on their behalf.

The charity proceeded to try to put its supporters’ minds at rest by informing them that “smaller charities like the MS Trust do not use the services of such companies”. As a result they can “rest assured that the money you raise/donate is coming directly to the MS Trust to fund our work!”

I don’t like seeing one charity criticise another for choosing to use another fundraising channel, one that is legal, established, profitable and self-regulated. By all means choose not to use it yourself, but don’t suggest another charity is wrong to choose that method.

I particular dislike straw doll logic. The implication from the headline ‘Is the MS Trust losing money to high street fundraisers?’ is that other charities are losing money to high street fundraisers. No they aren’t. They are paying high street fundraisers to generate substantial, regular, tax-effective income. If they were genuinely losing money, then such charities would be daft. But they aren’t losing money.

The other implication from their final paragraph is that other forms of fundraising don’t have a cost. Yes, they do. Professional fundraising costs money. Just looking at their web page I can see that the web company IDnet created the website for them. Did they do that for free? MS Trust are also a member of the Fundraising Standards Board. Did they get free membership? Does the charity employ only volunteers to fundraise?

MS Trust are not the only charity that flies the “no chugging here” flag, so it is just unfortunate that I came across their page.

But this tendency to criticise other charities for their choice of fundraising methods worries me – particularly when it is inspired by bad, partial and ill-informed journalism.

By all means highlight illegal, fraudulent and misleading fundraising. But otherwise have a thought for the charity sector as a whole and don’t try to pretend that your fundraising has hardly any costs.

Howard Lake is a digital fundraising entrepreneur. Publisher of UK Fundraising, the world's first web resource for professional fundraisers, since 1994. Trainer and consultant in digital fundraising. Founder of Fundraising Camp.

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